My name is Carrie Newlands.
I'm a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon
from the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.
Mouth cancer is a cancer which affects the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
Most mouth cancers are caused by smoking, although not always.
If you drink alcohol as well as smoke,
then your risks of getting mouth cancer substantially increase.
We know that it's very important
for anybody with an abnormal area in their mouth to seek help early
because the survival rate goes up significantly
if you catch it when the cancer is very tiny
and particularly before it's had a chance to spread.
Most mouth cancers present as an ulcer or a rough patch or a lump,
and that's commonly on the tongue or underneath the tongue,
although it can affect other areas of the skin inside the mouth.
Occasionally mouth cancer can show up in other ways,
such as with a lump in the neck, which is where a gland has become swollen.
If that is a concern, you should be sent to see a maxillofacial surgeon.
That appointment should happen within two weeks
of your dentist or doctor referring you.
If you're diagnosed with mouth cancer,
it's very important to be looked after by a group of people
who specialise in cancers of the mouth
and other cancers which are called head and neck cancers.
These will be a group of doctors and nurses and therapists
who are called a multidisciplinary team.
They'll be used to working with each other.
They will work with you to determine the best way to treat your cancer.
Mouth cancer can be treated in several ways.
It is commonly treated by surgery,
but some people are more suitable to have radiotherapy
and chemotherapy is sometimes used in certain circumstances.
Your team will make sure that you get the best treatment
related to what evidence there is
in terms of the particular cancer that you have
and in terms of other factors such as your general state of health.
Most mouth cancer operations are usually quite significant operations
involving spending around a day in theatre
and usually at least a week in hospital afterwards to recover.
The operation in its simplest explanation
involves the removal of the cancer.
It is very frequent for you to have the neck glands removed at the same time.
The mouth cancer is usually removed from inside the mouth
but the neck glands are removed through an operation through the neck
which then involves having a scar on the neck afterwards.
Because it's important to remove a cancer
with a cuff of normal tissue around it,
that usually leaves an area in the mouth
where some of the skin and/or tongue is missing,
and it's common these days to have that area reconstructed.
A key member of your multidisciplinary team
will be a speech and language therapist
who will be able to talk to you beforehand
about how your particular surgery
is likely to affect the way you can swallow and speak afterwards.
All those things will be dealt with so that you have some idea what to expect.
But what to expect will differ in every one individual case.
The most important thing you can do if you have mouth cancer
is to stop smoking.
That will make you in a better position to go through your treatment
and it will also decrease your chances of getting other smoking-related cancers
and other illnesses at a later stage.
It's also important to make sure that you have a very good diet
that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
You will find it really helpful
to take a loved one or a friend with you to your clinic appointments,
partly for support but also to be able to remember answers to questions
that you may not be able to recall what was said to you.
It's useful to take a list of questions and be prepared to write things down
because that helps you to remember what was said once you've gone home.
Whichever way you've been treated,
you'll normally be kept under review by your team, usually for five years.
That will be quite frequently to begin with
but then less often as time goes on.
But it's important for you to know how to get in touch with your team
if anything happens in between your appointments that causes you concern.
What to expect afterwards will relate to how your cancer has been treated.
The team looking after you should give you some idea
as to how long your treatment will take, how long you'll need to be in hospital
and how long it will take for you to recover and get back to a normal life.